In this debut feature written and directed by Iranian born Babak Jalali, “Frontier Blues” features four, intertwined stories all set in Iran’s northern frontier with Turkmenistan, a region that has long been neglected in Iranian cinema, interesting not only for its magnificent, forlorn landscape but also for its multi-ethnic population of Persians, Turkmens and Kazakhs. Featuring non-professional actors from the northern region of Iran, Jalali’s film looks at fragments of the everyday existence of a varied collection of characters from the region.
2009 – Certificate: 12 – Iranian Film
Rating Details: One use of strong language and a moderate sex reference
7.0 out of 10
Although I frequently do nothing at work for weeks at a time (except procrastinate), I occasionally have to do something. This is normally something which I can’t delegate downwards or pass the buck upwards. Yesterday was one of those days. I had to complete a funding application. I’d known it’d need doing for the last month or so, but it was only yesterday that I did much about it, as it had a 17:00 deadline. I’d had a quick look at it the day before and decided that it wasn’t a lot of work; why I believe myself when I think something like that I’ll never know, but somehow I always do. So yesterday I found myself having to do some real work for a change. Now, there are people who actually do this sort of thing as their full time job and some of them actually seem to enjoy it. I lack the intelligence, focus and strength of character to be like that. I see it as a necessary evil that allows me to lead the decadent lifestyle that I do. No one should be forced to write funding applications; it’s only one step up from begging in the street. Like writing poetry or songs, funding bids come from the heart; they’re not something that can be forced out of someone. In my case they’re dragged screaming and kicking from my very soul, before being nakedly spread-eagled across the page for all to gawp at, pointing and laughing as they do so, as if I was exposing a very private part of me, which in a way I am. Being forced to write a funding bid is like being forced to love someone. Of course I enjoy getting that follow up letter that contains the word “congratulations”, but most of the time they just say “I’m sorry to inform you”. Writing funding bids is like asking someone out, and I’m crap at that too. (You work yourself up for ages to do it and then it all comes out wrong.) I’m just not thick skinned enough to take the rejection and it sends me into a subconscious mire of desolation and self-loathing. I still haven’t got over asking Debbie Warby out in 1977 and getting turned down; I only wanted to go and see “Star Wars” too. I never did see it at the cinema; no wonder I prefer “Star Trek”. So anyway, I got it done yesterday and what a beautiful creation it was; really, it should’ve been on display in a gallery, not stuffed into a brown envelope. After a 100mph death-defying drive, (it wasn’t far to go and I had an hour or so to get there, but I’d drunk far too much coffee), I got to hand it in before the deadline. I got a call about two hours later from the fund’s administrator, asking if I could e-mail her a copy, as she was having to scan all the applications and she’d been “inundated” with them and would be at work for hours doing them, so it would save her time. Inundated. Inundated! It’s like asking girls out again; a futile exercise that ends in humiliation and a feeling of abject failure. A woman gets asked out in this movie; that ends in abject failure too.
So this was a chance to watch my entire collection of Iranian films… all one of them. Not sure what I was expecting really, probably just some propaganda to do with nuclear bombs, oppressed women who choose to wear a burqa and jihadist wars. There isn’t anything else there is there, other than sand and oil… and camels probably? Well, that’s what it says in the papers, so it must be true. Okay, I don’t really believe any of that nonsense, but I was surprised by what I did see. In fact it took me a while to get over my preconceptions and begin to appreciate what this film actually was, which made me feel a bit guilty; I really was under the impression that it would be sort of worthy, but a bit amateurish and boring. In fact this is a black comedy, which pokes fun at itself and Iran’s own, internal preconceptions about itself. It’s true to say that not a lot happens for most of the film and there aren’t a great many spaceships, aliens or explosions in it. It’s simply a snapshot of the lives of four people that to some extent are interconnected. At first I did find it a bit boring, but when I finally worked out what I was watching it got a lot more interesting. It was almost as if I felt guilty about finding the discomfort of the characters funny, which is a bit sad really. The picture quality isn’t always the best, which is a bit frustrating as the scenery is really worth seeing. It’s also quite slow and nothing happens quickly; and in a cultural way there are a few things that just don’t sit comfortably for many westerners too. However, the majority of it is good stuff and I really rather enjoyed it.
The music used in the film is sparse and haunting. It’s not something I’d listen to on its own but as a soundtrack it’s great and adds to the atmosphere a lot. We also get treated to a bit of what sounds like Marlene Dietrich, but I could be wrong.
Movie Weather Forecast. I’ve still not started doing this properly, but it was dry and mostly sunny, with some blustery wind at times.
For stupid people like me, the trailer makes the tone of the film a bit clearer.
Recommend for wrestlers, photographers and anyone who works on a chicken farm.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? I like tea. I drink a lot of tea. I like coffee but I like tea more. In this film the characters drink tea. They drink a lot of tea. In fact I suspect that it’s a subtle joke about how much tea people in Iran do drink. I thought all they did there was build nuclear bombs and hate on the West, but actually they drink a lot of tea and have a sense of humour that I can relate to. That’s cool, because most of the people I actually know don’t understand it. I’m a Brit so tea is automatically badass and badass in a way coffee will never be. In fact it’s the most badass of drinks; except perhaps cider.
The feature debut of Lindy Heymann is a clever comment on modern celebrity culture. Nicole (Kerrie Hayes) a Liverpudlian teenager, spends her time hanging around the gates of Anfield and the Liverpool training ground, desperate for a glimpse of her idol, the star footballer Lee Cassidy (Jamie Doyle). There she meets aspirant WAG Jasmine (played by Nichola Burley from “StreetDance 3D”), instantly. They trawl the city and its nightspots, fantasising about a time when they might have Lee for themselves, yet when the news breaks that the footballer is a transfer target for Real Madrid, they take drastic action to prevent him leaving… Stand-out performances from the two lead actresses make this energetic, funny and tense film one of the best UK debuts of recent years.
2009 – Certificate: 15 – British Film
Rating Details: Strong language, sex and injury detail
8.5 out of 10
I’ve just drunk two big mugs of really strong coffee with Kahlúa poured into it. I’ve not had anything to eat for nearly 24 hours, (yes I’m still on my stupid ‘eat every other day’ diet), so I expect it’s about to have some sort of weird physical, emotional and mental effect on me. I’m about to experience the outer limits of human perceptions and experiences… There’s something weird about this film too.
It’s a really bizarre feeling when you see someone who really reminds you of someone else. You know it’s not the same person, yet you have a natural tendency to react to them as if it is. You can’t help it, it just happens. It’s futile to resist, as you’re trying to logically reason your way out of a whole lifetime of experience and memories, many of which you’ve subconsciously distorted over time to better fit your needs. (I’ve no doubt this is what’s behind the many incidences of random people coming up to me in the street and calling me names; or maybe that’s just how I am?) Kerrie Hayes (the blonde woman in the trailer) really, really, really reminds me of someone I knew years ago when she was a similar age; in fact we’re still close. (By “close” I mean we see each other three or four times a year, which for someone with a social circle as meagre as mine, makes us virtually Siamese twins.) They share the same mannerisms, the same look, the same intensity. It made watching this film probably a more unique experience for me than normal. This is a great movie. It takes a while to get going and the ending is a bit (and I’m using that word again, it must be the coffee) weird. You probably need to get drunk in ‘real time’ along with the characters, to get the most out of the latter part and to make their behaviour make sense. The two lead actresses in it are excellent and I love the whole look and feel of the film, depressing though it is. It’s basically a movie about a friendship between two young women, celebrity culture and living with this ‘illness’. Definitely recommended. I imagine if it isn’t already, obsessing over celebrities probably does has a medical name. The clinical test to determine if you suffer from it being that you can watch a new series of “Celebrity Big Brother” or “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” and recognise over 25% of the ‘celebrities’ in it. I’m pleased to say I’d struggle to recognise more than a couple. So basically what I’m saying is that the media has created a new disease for everyone to suffer from and deliberately spreads the ‘virus’ around in the form of gossip mags, Internet rubbish and fake newspaper stories, in the hope of infecting more people. What sort of sick bastards are they? Well it’s certainly crossed one of my red lines, so it’s just as well for them that I’m not World President Obama, or they’d be some serious consideration going on, relating to the arming of freedom fighters like myself with big pairs of scissors, so we can go into shops selling this rubbish and cut it all up into small pieces. Watch out News UK, we know who you are… even if you have just changed your name out of shame.
The soundtrack is all, slightly atmosphere indie rock. The individual tunes weren’t that exciting, but they surprisingly all hang together pretty well and nicely enhance the impact of the scenes they’re used in. They’re a really good fit into the overall feel of the film.
Recommended for bored teenagers, journalists who write about Kim Kardashian’s baby and professional footballers.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? There’s frequently a dearth of badass in movies like this. It’s all people with no real hope, no belief and no future. This one is no exception. So I guess the best I can come up with is the friendship that develops between the two main characters, Nicole and Jasmine. In a film about the shallowness of celebrity, it’s the one really meaningful thing in it.
Neil (Guillermo Diaz) has been a vegetarian for one thousand two hundred and sixty-three days. He and his girlfriend Daisy like to spend their days skateboarding, drinking organic coffee, and driving around talking about the state of the world. Their idyllic existence is shattered when Neil’s father, Vic, reveals his grand plan for Neil to become a third generation butcher and work with him in the Father and Son butcher shop. With no job to support himself and nowhere else to live, Neil is left with little choice but to report to work with his father. Faced with the bloody reality of slabs of dead meat, Neil runs screaming from the shop, and keeps running and running and running, until he ends up in a deserted skateboard park. There he has a visionary encounter with a Chicken Man, who kicks his ass and shows him how hypocritical his pseudo-political lifestyle has been. With the Chicken Man’s inspirational words ringing in his head, “You know what you are supposed to do,” Neil returns to his life with a mission to change the world.
2005 – Certificate: Not Rated – American Film
6.5 out of 10
As we all know, vegans are inherently more intelligent and all-around better than anyone else. We also know that we’ll eventually inherit the Earth too; (I’m afraid the meek will just have to piss off down the job centre and look for something else to do). True, it will probably resemble the inside of a Chinese takeaway’s wheelie bin by then, but it’s the principle that’s important here. We look upon mere vegetarians as uneducated children, people with the potential to become civilised, but who have many dark sides to overcome and quests they need to undertake, before they attain true enlightenment. Yes, I know there’re a lot more vegetarians about than vegans but really, they’re a bit like the Lib Dems, no one takes them seriously do they? One pizza or the whiff of bacon cooking and they’re slobbering like a St. Bernard, apologising for their dietary ‘aberration’, in an attempt to appease their cannibalistic, meat-eating friends, in case the latter get offended. If a vegan walks into a room, people take notice; think The Terminator. (That’s probably not the best analogy, but it’s all I can come up with right now.) When I walk into a room, people make their excuses and leave. If I spot a non-vegan woman who I feel shows ‘potential’ and I explain to her that as a vegan we can’t actually breed as we’re basically different species so it’s okay for us to ‘do stuff’ together, she will inevitably make her excuses and leave too. I guess the offer is just too awesome and mind-blowing for them to cope with. I can appreciate that viewpoint; I have each and every one of the 453 times it’s happened. This film is about a mere vegetarian. One who realises that trying to negotiate your enemy into surrender isn’t always possible.
A lot of the time there’s not much really going on in this drama/comedy/horror; the characters mostly sit around and talk about uninteresting stuff. In fact it’s so bad, Neil even speaks directly to the viewers, to give us some insight into what he’s thinking. There aren’t a lot of films like that. There aren’t a lot of films without a trailer either, but I think this might be one of them. Actually, I think Neil is probably a sociopath; he really doesn’t seem to care a lot about those around him, even his family, girlfriend and best mate. He looks like he does but really, it’s all for show. A typical, serial killer personality trait. I personally blame it on all the milk and cheese he probably eats. I suspect there’s a tendency for all vegetarians to be that way inclined; can eat this, can’t eat that, I’m a lacto-ovo-talkbollocksaboutfoodo vegetarian so I can basically decide what I eat depending on what mood I’m in, etc. It’s so complicated, no wonder it messes with their heads. All that angst and guilt about everything. Even the word vegetarian is (if you’ll excuse the pun) a mouthful; does it really need five syllables? And vegetarianism? That’s seven. By the time you’ve explained what you are to someone and what you can and can’t eat, you’ll have starved to death. No wonder they’re all so thin. Look what happened to Robocop in “Robocop 2” when he had too many Prime Directives to deal with. They should all just be vegan, it’s a whole lot simpler; if you like it you can’t eat it. Even I can understand that. Oh the film? Actually it’s not bad at all; I’ve probably made it sound worse than it is.
The film sports a great soundtrack made up of songs by numerous and mostly obscure punk rock bands. It’s good.
Recommended for vegetarians, skateboarders, coffee shop workers and punks. Not recommend for butchers or pet shop store owners.
One cat, no chainsaws or decapitations. There’s a cute cat on a cushion in a pet shop, which does have to do a bit of acting. Stretching your paws out take real timing and effort to look good.
Top badass moment? In the most poorly hidden plot development of the century (especially as I’m about to blab it now), vegetarian Neil kills his butcher father and feeds him to the customers. Sorry, but that automatically qualifies as badass, regardless of the moral implications.
Jonathan Silverman (“Weekend at Bernie’s”, “Brighton Beach Memoirs”) is Barry Thomas, and Barry is having a bad day… over and over and over again. That’s because Barry is caught in a “time bounce” – an atmospheric phenomenon – that occurs when his employer, the high-tech company Utrel, has an experiment that goes haywire. Spared from the effect of memory loss by an electric shock at the moment of the time bounce, Barry is the only one at Utrel who has the power to change the course of fate. And to Barry that means saving the life of the woman he loves, research scientist Lisa Fredericks (Helen Slater, “City Slickers”, “Ruthless People”). Tautly directed by Jack Sholder (“A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge”, “The Hidden”) and co-starring Academy Award winner Martin Landau (“Crimes and Misdemeanors”), “12:01” is a spirited sci-fi thriller you’ll enjoy again and again and again! “It’s Back to the Future” meets “Groundhog Day”!
1993 – Certificate PG-13 – American Film
Rating Details: Violence
6.0 out of 10
I really like tea, but I also drink a lot of not very nice instant coffee too. I drink the latter almost exclusively at work, as the caffeine helps me to do my shit. Without this stimulant, I’d not be able to deliver my corporate payload from a sufficiently high altitude to target my in-box effectively and render its population non-belligerent. Really. Like Bane in Batman (the version that hung about with Poison Ivy in the 1997 “Batman and Robin” film), each cup has the same effect on me as turning the ‘power dial’ on his head did on him. I shake a lot, growl a bit and look angry, my fingers a blur of motion on the keyboard, as I up the misspelling count to such a shocking level that even Bill Gates can’t work out what the hell I’m trying to write. Someone once sneaked a jar of decaffeinated coffee into the office and the whole organisation nearly went bankrupt. Conversely, at home I almost never drink coffee. About 15 years ago I bought a filter coffee-making machine when I had someone staying with me who liked coffee. Despite my ongoing battle with technology, it’s still fully functional. (I guess I don’t use it very often and it’s not a very ‘mission critical’ part of my lifestyle.) However, tonight I made myself some real coffee in it. It was very nice! Funny enough, it’s even nicer if you tip a load of Tia Maria in it. I wonder what happens if you try to get drunk on coffee?
The 80s and 90s were the golden age for ‘Made for TV’ films. This is one of them. It’s basically “Groundhog Day” with some sci-fi bolted onto it. It’s got Martin Landau in it, but I guess all those years of running Moonbase Alpha in “Space 1999” must have taken their toll on him, because he’s rubbish! Never mind phoning in his role, he didn’t even make contact. I think they just carried a cardboard cut out about from scene to scene. In fact the whole movie is pretty rubbish. However, despite its limitations it’s a fun, easy watch, ideal for when you can’t be bothered to concentrate on stuff. Our hero is Barry, who basically has to save the world, or universe, or something, from remaining stuck in the same 24 hour time loop. He’s a workshy loser in the personnel department of a company that’s doing research into faster than light travel; (don’t worry if you don’t understand, it’s really not that important). Now I’ve seen a lot of action heroes in my time with unlikely ‘day jobs’, but this is the first time I’ve come across one from an HR department. I now have a new-found respect for personnel staff, they kick ass. (Where I work we call them People Services, which I’m not sure quite conjures up the correct mental image to some.) Despite its many faults, this is a decent enough thriller/romance/comedy to waste 94 minutes of your life on.
The soundtrack does its job, collects its pay check and leaves.
Recommended for anyone working in human resources, or as a scientist carrying out cutting edge research into particle physics.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Our hero finds himself breaking into his own employer’s offices. The security guards, already alerted to the fact, are polite but inept, as Bazza somehow manages to grab one of their guns out of its holster. Pretty impressive for an HR administrator. However, what’s really badass is the threat he uses to distract them as he’s doing so. “Stop giving me a hard time, because I’m going to have to come back here in the morning and make sure that you’re fired before we get here; and don’t think I can’t do it either, I’m in personnel.” A terrifying threat in these economically tough times.